Breaking the Barriers to Student Entrepreneurship

Republished with the permission of the authorTim Hui, President of Fellowship of Medical Engineers & Student Ambassador at QUT.  Photography credit to Marvin Fox Photography.

May 31 saw a close to the Startup Hatch program, with a finale Showcase Event. Startup Hatch was a program planned over a period of 4.5 months, that kicked off on March 2nd and concluded on March 31st that gave university students the opportunity to turn ideas into reality.

Students were encouraged to submit their idea at the start throughout January – February and pitch at Startup Hatch Launch for input and co-founders who could bring new and contrasting skillsets to their team. Startup Hatch Launch saw the formation of 13 teams and by the end of March, there were 19 teams taking part in the program. There were 15 partners, including leading companies to give students a unique insight and develop the core aspects of entrepreneurship and starting a business.

The final day of Startup Hatch, the Showcase, was ultimately a success with 9 of the teams willingly pitching to a panel of three judges and an audience of over 150 people. Panelists included: Steve Baxter, Jo Ukukalo and Randall Makin. There was plenty of positive feedback but also constructive feedback – each person who stood on the stage, had concepts with huge potential and received invaluable feedback from judges that would help fix flaws in their startups and develop truly unique businesses.

I told everyone to look at Showcase, not as a means to an end but a 30 day milestone – for 30 days old startups. Various teams won awards and prizes but this wasn’t the true value that came from Startup Hatch; the value isn’t in physical prizes, the value came from the experience that everyone went through during Startup Hatch. The program showed students their capabilities when they are resourceful and start the core basics of business.QUT Starts Hatch program finale showcase 2016

The Workshops:

  • Week -2: Ideation Session, with Colin Kinner
  • Week 1: Problems Worth Solving, with PwC Innovation and Disruption Team
  • Week 1/2: Team Initiation, with Buckham & Duffy Consultants
  • Week 2: Startup Blueprint, with Assemblus
  • Week 2/3: Business Model Canvas & Digital Strategy, with QUT Starters and Meaningful Social Impact
  • Week 3: Pitching 101, with Colin Kinner
  • Week 4: Talking Code // Talking Business, with Peter Laurie and David Hooper
  • Week 5: Pitch Perfect, with Jock Fairweather, Aaron Birkby and Monica Bradley.

Lessons Learnt

1. Prepare to Pivot Ourselves (do what we preach)

The program prior to March was far different to the program that was completed by the end of March. Startup Hatch was an educational experience for everyone involved, the QUT Starters team quickly learnt that changes were needed to be made every one to two days to adapt to participants and the way their ideas were developing.

2. Need to Quickly Validate

After the Team Initiation workshop, students had validated their business model and understood their potential revenue streams and easiest entry points to markets. In just the first week, multiple teams had taken to the wider community to start to get validation for their ideas from their target customer demographic. I remember at the 2nd workshop, one of the teams stopped me before I went for lunch and asked:

Hey Tim, do you mind if we go down the street and ask the business down the road how they manage their fleet cars? — Jackson Grant, Glazed Carwash

3. Students are Hungry to Learn

The rapid pace at which teams were moving elevated the program and a new workshop was created upon demand, BMC & Digital Strategies ran by Tim, Rosie and Sam from the QUT Starters team. Following this, QUT Starters began to hold weekly ‘round-table meetings’ for the Hatch participants to bring their ideas, bounce new concepts off the QUT Starters team, mentors and other participants and collaborate on ideas to create diversified solutions for problems that they had encountered.

4. Value of Mentors

Students not only gained valuable knowledge and insight into business, as the program progressed, it was apparent that there was a huge personal development undertaken by every individual who participated in Hatch. Throughout March there were numerous mentors from Brisbane’s startup scene help guide students through their early stage development. Students’ ability to problem solve significantly increased, they became opportunistic, their ability to switch between creative mindsets and strategy mindsets improved, their research and market research improved and importantly, problems were no long problems, they simply became barriers that were overcome to create strengthened ideas.

5. Building a Community

From the start, the QUT Starters team put a large emphasis on building a community network to ensure that everyone felt supported and comfortable throughout the program. The majority of students undertaking Hatch had no prior experience in entrepreneurship and therefore, to be told that they would need to create a startup in 30 days whilst learning at the same time is an overwhelming experience. Creating a supportive community hugely contributed to the success of Startup Hatch and is accountable for the progressive increase of teams throughout Startup Hatch.

6. Gaining Exposure via Social Media

The biggest hurdle was how could we gain traction with students before semester commences when they don’t think about university? We leveraged social media to build awareness prior and throughout March. From quick growth and traction, we now sustain reach over 25,000 each week with high conversion.

 Reflecting back throughout March

The individuals in Startup Hatch were given the opportunity to give an idea everything they have and what came of that is learning about their capabilities and true potential. Often people restrict themselves by believing they can’t do something because someone said they can’t or because they have learnt that in a way that makes it feel like self-education is devalued against institutional and structured learning.

The hidden value of Startup Hatch was not about the frameworks but unveiling potential and capabilities, this opens doors – doors to be able to do anything. Potential can’t be measured in as a metric value, instead it’s something qualitative measure that will be progressively recognised over entire lifetime.

The students who simply had an idea at the start of March became leaders for entrepreneurship and startups in university and their passion inspired others to learn more and pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures.

Global reports show that less than 4% of young Australians want to work for a startup. It is a worryingly low number. The Startup Hatch initiative is addressing this issue by showing students how exciting it is to build and run a startup. QUT Starters are onto something very important here: developing entrepreneurial skills of those who will shape the future economy of Australia. We are proud to be supporting this initiative and working with QUT Starters, led by Rosie and Tim.  — Marek Kowalkiewicz, PwC Chair in Digital Economy

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